Since we are now past the hype of Tim Tebow and the Broncos, I want to offer a few thoughts about the quarterback. Like many of you, I have seen the Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon skits, and have laughed, too. But now that the laughter has died down, I am finding that these skits and other criticisms of Tim Tebow reveal how little our culture really knows about prayer.
The first suggestion these skits and others make is that Tim Tebow prays too much. Somehow, he is annoying Jesus with all his praying. He should calm down, not be so enthusiastic about his relationship with Christ. Jesus, of course, tells us the exact opposite. He tells us of a story of a poor widow who keeps bugging a corrupt judge about getting justice. The judge gets so sick of her request that she grants her justice just to get her off his back. Jesus then says, “will God then answer the prayers of those who cry out to him, day and night? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Scripture also tells us that we should “pray without ceasing,” which many devout monks and nuns have striven to do over centuries.
This skit also seems to think that God (Jesus) gets sick of hearing so many prayers. Yet this assumes that God is like us: someone who easily gets tired of listening to people drone on about their problems. Yet, if this is true, wouldn’t God just get sick of everyone praying? In the film Bruce Almighty, the main character experiences of the amount of praying going up do God every second of every day, and he cannot handle it. Yet God is God and not a human being, and, being God, he can easily handle it. God listens to the prayers of billions of people every day, and treats each person as if they are the only ones he is listening to. And God does this while sustaining the whole universe, with billions of stars and planets.
I believe that many people are critical of Tim Tebow praying because he reveals the sparse nature of their life of prayer. When they see him “Tebowing” – getting down on one knew to pray – they feel the same embarrassment as when they are around the Thanksgiving table and face that awkward moment. They look at one another, wondering who is going to offer a prayer at Thanksgiving. It really makes me wonder how many people feel awkward, afraid or ashamed of praying in public – of expressing their faith openly, exposing themselves as a person of faith and risking the ridicule of other. Jesus tells people, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Tim Tebow challenges all of us to be courageous and honest about our faith.
The other suggestion people are making is that he is asking God to give him victory in the football game and then thanking Jesus for giving him that victory. If Tebow has been raised in a strong Christian environment, where scripture is read and pray is offered regularly, I believe he would have realized, at one point in time, that God is not a God who takes sides in anything, including football games. Scripture is full of examples of God not taking sides, but acting out of his own divine wisdom and sovereign will.
I wonder how Tebow’s critics really know what exactly Tim Tebow is praying for? Perhaps he is praying for God to give him strength and courage to face the challenge before him. If I am a quarterback on a football team, charged with leading a team to victory, facing 350 pound linebackers running after me as I drop back to pass, I think I would be praying, too. I hope we all pray for God to give us strength and wisdom and courage to face whatever we have to face in life.
I am grateful for Tim Tebow’s faith and how it has opened up a discussion on the nature of prayer and and prodded us to think about how God is involved in our lives. I only hope his critics can somehow listen and learn from his faithful witness.